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The Making of a Virtuous Leader

By Tewodros Shibru Gebrehiwot (tshibru@yahoo.com) 25-May-2011

The Making of the Virtuous Leader

Introduction This paper is written as a term paper in fulfillment for the course (Ethical Challenges of Leadership) I took in my current graduate study. I was initiated to write on this topic as I was writing one of the reflection papers on the valid difference between moral leaders and virtuous leaders. The more I read about virtuous leadership, my mind was racing with so many questions. How could we have many virtuous leaders, thereby a virtuous society and what does it take to have them? At the same time, I recalled a book (The Making of a Leader) that I read many years ago that deals with the development of a leaders character. I have also my own understanding of the ways God is using in developing a leader through my personal reflection of Bible study and my own personal experience viewed from this biblical understanding. This paper is thus a synthesis of virtue, virtue ethics, leadership and virtuous leadership development from academic readings, from the life experience of my hero leaders, personal biblical preconceived ideas and further readings related to this topic. However, I must confess the limitation of this paper in daring to choose such topic, which has a very wide scope that requires extensive research. Therefore, I express my regret if the content appears trivial in addressing the issue. In general, the thesis behind this paper is the existence of a valid difference among leadership styles based on leaders ethical stances. The premise that virtuous leaders are not born but made is the other assumption. Moreover, in the making of a virtuous leader, personal commitment and sacrifices are required out of the leaders will. Finally, the paper assumes that true transformative agents in leadership are virtues leaders.

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The Making of the Virtuous Leader

Virtue According to Arthur F. Holmes (1994) in Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions virtue is more than the morality of doing what is right and good. It is about character rather than conduct and it is about the kinds of persons we should be inwardly rather than what we do outwardly. Holmes further defined it as a right inner disposition. A disposition is a tendency to act in certain ways, which is more basic, lasting and pervasive than the particular motive or intention behind a certain action. It differs from habit of mind and reflective traits. Virtues are character traits that provide inner sanctions on our particular motives, intentions and outward conduct. Holmes says a developed character makes behavior for more predictable that does the sudden impulse or passing inclination. These character makes a person reliable and responsible agent. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling (2008) in Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promise and Pitfalls of Classical Models of Morality refers to Alasdair MacIntyres definition of virtue. He state virtue as an acquired human quality, the position and exercise of which tends to enable us to achieve those good that are internal to practice and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving any such good. Platos list of virtues include wisdom, courage, temperance and justice while for the Bible the list includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol (Gal. 5) and (Reuschling includes the following from the account of sermon on the mount) Humility, peacemaking, mercy, suffering for the sake of righteousness. Aquinas later added the virtues of faith hope and love to the classical list

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The Making of the Virtuous Leader

Ethical Stances of Leadership Different literatures have divided style or types of leadership in to different category. I believe leadership is divided in to three types based on the leaders ethical stances as vicious, moral and virtuous leadership. Vicious Leadership This leadership style is amoral, corrupt and dysfunctional. Such leaders have on excessive selfinterest that is motivated by fear. Their target is the elimination of their own fictitious enemies that serve as scapegoat for their incompetency. According to Mark Gerzons (2006) in Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunity, Gerzon called the vicious leaders the Demagogues. Gerzon states that these immoral leaders are creators, facilitators or inducers of conflict. They are doing this just to keep themselves in power. The underlying force that derives them is fear. Fear is the governing principle that dictates them how they behave. Therefore, these demagogue leaders project their fear to the larger population by covering it through different reasons and giving it different names (except its real name fear) and by preparing scapegoats. They have a cruel heart even to create a civil war as long as it keeps them in power. They claim that if they are not in power there will be chaos and disaster. The recent uprising in the Arab world has vividly demonstrated such vicious leadership character as in Hosni Mubarak, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, President Bashar al-Assad and President Ali Abdullah Saleh to mention few. We have so many examples of such leaders in both history and the Bible. Saul, Jeroboam son of Nabat, Ahab and his wife Jezebel, Haman son of Hammedatha, Diotrephes, and others can be few of the examples. The young David, Elijah, Naboth, Mordecai, and others have served as their scapegoats for initiating civil war and genocidal attempt.

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The Making of the Virtuous Leader

The other term coined to express this vicious leadership style is toxic leadership. A toxic leader is someone who has responsibility over a group of people or an organization, and who abuses the leader-follower relationship by leaving the group or organization in a worse-off condition than when s/he first found them. 1 Lipman-Blumens toxic leadership is not about run-of-the-mill mismanagement. Rather, it refers to leaders, who, by virtue of their "dysfunctional personal characteristics" and "destructive behaviors" "inflict reasonably serious and enduring harm" not only on their own followers and organizations, but on others, as well. Similarly, Barbara Kellerman (2004) in Bad Leadership suggests that toxicity in leadership may be analyzed into seven different types: Incompetent, rigid, intemperate, callous, corrupt, insular and evil. 2 Stephan Schwenke in Leadership for East Africa states that immoral leaders can still be highly effective in pursuing a vision and motivating their followers. Nonetheless, he refers to James McGregor Burnss argument that leadership that is amoral is neither transformational nor transactional leadership. He also quotes Safty saying these amoral leaders are rulers rather than leaders. Moral leadership This is a leadership style with ethical stances based on principles and rules that govern its action. It is concerned to do things the right way. According to Bass, transactional leadership for instance concentrate on managing results, with much less concern as to how these result are achieved.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_leader ibid 4|Page

The Making of the Virtuous Leader

Gerzons second classification of leadership as the Manager fits the description of moral leadership. The manager style of leadership are depicted as people with good intentions but found to be restricted by the prevailing bureaucratic procedure and their jurisdictions that force these leaders to think only of their only constituencies or turfs. King Darius in his dealing with the case of conflict between Daniel and the 120 straps and administrators can be considered as the manager style of leadership in handling the conflict. Although King Darius had good intentions he or his office was limited by the laws of Medes and Persians to go beyond in resolving the conflict decisively. Virtuous leadership Virtuous leadership, in the other hand, personifies the character of virtues as moral agent rather than only demonstrating the action. In this kind of leadership, characters do matter. A leader endowed with virtuous character has the audacity to challenge the status quo and bring a complete transformation to their community even in the making of a virtuous society. Many literatures relate this kind of leadership to authentic transformational leadership. Bernard M. Bass and Paul Steidlmeier in their article Ethics, Character, and Authentic Transformational leadership address the issue of virtuous leader extensively. They argued that the heart of the moral enterprise is the development of good character, which is defined by commitment to virtue in all circumstances. According to these authors, Confucius also believed that the virtuous leader are those who walk the moral way and attempts to practice virtue through self-cultivation and aim to transform societies accordingly. The process of growth in virtue is one of creative transformation of self. It occurs both within and for a community. In Confucian term, a true transformational leader is to be a superior person or a virtuous person. Generally, the virtues person is viewed as transformational.

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The Making of the Virtuous Leader

Another article by Stephan Schwenke Leadership for East Africa: A Role for Transformational Virtue, explores the transformational leadership as the virtuous leader. The paper argues that if we assign virtuous leaders at the apex of national leadership but driven by the people, this can brings transformation on the ravages of poverty, conflict and underdevelopment addressing the issue in a manner that is morally responsive. The fostering of virtuous leadership is essential for governance to become good governance. Schwenke recognizes the role of morality in both transactional and transformational forms of leadership and conclude in brief terms, however, that that authentic transformational leadership is characterized by its high moral and ethical standards. Schwenke also summarizes McKinnons (1999) writing on the issue of virtuous leader. Virtuous leader internalize and embodies these values within his or her character. The life of virtue is a disciplined, reflective, diligent life, molding ones character on the bases of carefully considered values, life experiences and access to a wide variety of moral resources. Virtuous readership spring from this internalized moral core; whereas simple moral leadership is less deeply grounded and perhaps more intellectually and strategically situated. Gerzons third classification of leadership that equates the virtuous leader is termed as the Mediators. According to Gerzon, these leaders have the heart, the mind, the courage and the will to transform a conflicting situation in to an opportunity for growth and development. These kinds of leaders and their style of leadership stands for the healing, justice and benefit of all rather than what can be considered to their jurisdictions or their own people. As a clear demonstration of this kind of leadership, Nelson Mandela stands out as a rare model of virtuous transformative leadership in Africa. Other virtues leaders include Mosses, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, to name few.

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Although virtue ethics has revived recently, it has many opponents. It is considered as naive by its critics. Considering the prevailing forces of corruption, self-interest, power abuse, nepotism, etc widespread every sphere of our life, it requires huge amount of courage to choose to be virtuous. However, the dilemma is not new. The Psalmist (of 73) many centuries ago was faced the same dilemma. Many times the way of the arrogant, the oppressors, the immoral, the corrupt, and their likes seems to be unmovable and their way of life seems the established norm. In the other hand being ethical, moral, or virtuous seems nave and useless. Nonetheless, the Psalmist understanding of virtues resurges and he was able to see the ultimate destiny of the vicious as ultimate destruction. He reaffirm that virtue is its own reward but also brings blessings. Moreover, Schwenke also asserts that history also answers to this objection best by demonstrating that authentic transformational leadership founded on virtuous leaders overturns the status quo and advanced a new way of thinking-perhaps even a new sense of public morality and virtue in the society. Such virtuous leaders as Mosses, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela and so many others have demonstrated this. Developing the Virtuous leader In this topic I try to review the works of J. Robert Clintons theory in his book The Making of a leader on how God intends to develop a leader. I will also review other authors view in the leadership development of the virtuous leader. Clintons theory states that God develops a leader over lifetime. That development is a function of the events and people to impress leadership lessons upon a leader. Processing is central to the theory. All leaders can point to critical incidents in their lives where God taught then something very important.

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In this theory, the primary lesson God is using in the leader is to formulate foundational leadership traits by passing the leader through different stages of leadership development. In this theory, the whole developments steps emphasize maturity in a leader because mature leadership flow out of a mature person. God deepens, sometimes painfully, the character of a leader in order to produce riper fruit. According to this author, research and findings over the lifespan of many leaders from both contemporary and history has resulted in the conclusion that assert in the presence of overall general pattern in the leadership development. However, the time line is unique for every individual. For that matter, not every leader passes through the phases of every step. Clinton argued that Gods approach is first to work the leader and then work through the leader. The author states that God uses steps like an integrity check to test inner character for consistency of a leader. In many occasions leaders who are determined to be virtuous may pass through another step known as isolation process that may come due to crises, illness, persecution, imprisonment, discipline, self-choice or providential circumstances. For instances, Mandela (27 years in prison), Joseph (13 years in slavery and prison), David (15 years under persecution), Paul (3 years under self-choice, many years in prison at different times) have experiences some kind of isolation. Isolation teaches important inner leadership lessons that could not be learned in the pressure and activities of normal situation. Virtuous leadership development is determined primarily by the voluntary submission of the leader to the process and God. God is determined first to work on the leader. Unlike men, God is no in hurry while developing a leader. Although Mosses was educated in all the wisdoms of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action 3, God took another forty years in developing

Acts 7:22 (NIV) 8|Page

The Making of the Virtuous Leader

the most humble leader that was an instrument in librating Israel for the bondage of Pharos. God is more interested in shaping the leader first Clintons generalized time line has six phases of development in which the leader pass thorough. It rarely fits anyones exactly, but it does give perspective. The phases are divided as sovereign foundation (which begin at birth), inner-life growth, life maturing, convergence, and after glow. In the first three phases, God is working primarily the leader. Gods desire for us is to lead out of who we are, not what we do. Latter, God moves the leader into a role that match his/her gift mix and experience so that leadership is maximized. Then the leader is guided into a role and place where he can have maximum effectiveness. According to Clinton, character development has many facets and because of these, there are variety of integrity checks such as value, temptation, conflict, alternative guidance, persecution, loyalty and restitution. Some do not pass integrity checks like King Saul of Israel. He lacked integrity and failed in obedience test. Integrity is foundational for effective leadership; it must be instilled early in a leaders character. An emerging leader who disregards this principle takes a great risk. Those who respond properly to integrity checks will move on in their leadership development. Clinton also provide some leadership maturing processes that includes events and activities such as: entering into the role of leadership, taking assignment of task, training of different sort, leadership skill development, acquiring of leadership experience, relational learning, mentoring, literary (lessons to leaders from the lives others writing) and isolation, By reviewing Watchman Nees biography, the author said Nee repeatedly faced times of isolation due to ministry conflict, sickness, discipline, persecution and imprisonment. He saw the hands of God shaping him through these experiences. Leaders face unexpected situation 9|Page

The Making of the Virtuous Leader

involving sickness, crises and conflict. Few see these times as part of necessary training for effective leadership. The author believes that such experiences are used by God to deepen character. God does not stop working on character on leaders. God continue to form character throughout the life of a leader. Virtues of love, compassion, empathy, discernment, and others are deepened. These qualities differentiate between moral leaders and virtuous leaders. Stephan Schwenke also listed some points that help on the moral development of leaders. He recognized the significant role civil societies have in the development of virtuous leaders. Governments also need to take an impartial treatment of ethical matters in their executive wings and stop interfering in the affairs of the judicial systems for true moral and virtuous development. One need a closer look to the list of remedies for bribery and financial corruption that Dr. Rosamund Thomas 4 enlisted in his paper Power and Corruption in the 21st century: How to Remedy It? After reviewing Lord Actons famous maxim, Thomas precedes to enlist remedies for abuse of power and corruption in this century. I will not try to describe the list here; rather try to add and emphasize a dangerous pattern we currently are observing that is a huge hindrance to the moral development of leaders and society in Ethiopia. In my opinion one of the main problem against the anti-corruption campaign is the use of this fight that target high-ranking officials only when their political loyalty (or submissiveness) is in question towards their party (EPRDF-Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front) in general and the Prime Minister Melese Zenawi in particular. The incarceration of former Prime Minster Tamirat Layne and former defense Minister Siye Abreha and many other senior officials are the case in point here. As any one can assume, these two or few others are not the only corrupt officials in the government. Their imprisonment especially considering the timing of their incarceration has sent a clear message to all Ethiopian people and particularly to people

www.ethicscentre.org Rosamund Thomas (Dr.), 2006 10 | P a g e

The Making of the Virtuous Leader

who are incumbents. As long as their political allegiance and loyalty to the party and the PM is assured, it is unlikely that they will be faced with any corruption charges. Here we see sometimes corruption manipulatively used to blackmail political loyalty and avoid any political dissents. The other issue is the lack of consistent disciplinary measure in the fight. If the fight against corruption comes occasionally and is not part of routine, it is difficult for people to change their behavior. Lack of consistency in disciplining children for instance only keeps them confused which rule to follow. I think the same pattern is at work for adult as well as the society. If the anti-corruption law works in unpredictable pattern and used only to attack any dissent, people may be encouraged to take their chances, assuming that they can get away with it. The remedies are to have strong political will from the government side in fighting corruption irrespective of political loyalty. One way to do is to have an impartial and independent anticorruption institute not manipulated by the executive body of the government. The government also must demonstrate strong commitment in the application of the law at all times and in all places unswervingly. The other obstacle in the moral development of leaders comes from limiting the freedom of civil societies. The recent Charities and Societies Proclamation (No. 621/2009) of Ethiopia has very restrictive articles that greatly hinder the work of charities and civil societies particularly those who work in the area of advocacy. This is done by limiting the source of their income. Some of the activities these civil societies are prohibited by this proclamation include the advancement of human and democratic rights, the promotion of equality of different ethnic groups, the promotion of the right of the disabled and childrens right and the promotion of efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services. One can imagine the danger a country would find itself in its moral and ethical development in which the freedom of its civil societies are limited. For civil societies to play their role as an instrument in the development of virtuous leadership, the government of 11 | P a g e

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Ethiopia should reconsider revising its legislative in a way that honor their freedom and autonomy. The other points Stephan Schwenke enlist are enabling young potential leaders to grow into authentic transformational leadership role with its implication of ethical challenges and initiating Universities for courses on leadership same thing like we have at EGST (Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology) with comprehensive exposure to moral and transformational dimension of leadership. Schwenke also added such points as creating national dialogue on the ethics of leadership and virtuous leadership and celebrating the virtuous leaders so that young potential leaders get role models. Arthur F. Holmes also pointed out on issues of acquiring virtuous traits on character development. He cited Aristotle who describes virtue as habit of mind that can be cultivated. Aristotle said virtue do not arise naturally in the course of time. In fact, virtue often runs against our natural tendencies. It needs discipline and deliberation. The leader is personally responsible for his/her own character development. Holmes reminded his reader that approach to moral education should be evaluated in this context. For Reuschiling also Christian ethics and Aristotles virtue ethics share the dynamics aspect of the moral life. The moral life is not a given, but one that need to be nurtured and practiced by developing habits in light of an informing vision. Christians may call this the process of sanctification inspired by the Holy Spirit working through spiritual disciples to transform us more into a person like Jesus Christ. Whereas Aristotle locate this on the will of a human being, in his/her aspiration and effort to be good as part of living the good life. The life of Joseph, in the accounts of the book of Genesis, is one clear example on how God brings about virtuous leader who has a role as a transforming agent. Among the sons of Jacob, Ruben, Judah, Simon and Levi had demonstrated some kind of leadership ability. Ruben as the 12 | P a g e

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first-born has exercised a limited leadership role due to his birthright as a firstborn. Nevertheless, Ruben has lost his influence and credibility among his brothers probably due to his affair with Bilhan (Rachels maid). Although he felt responsible to rescue his little brother Joseph from his other brothers plot, he was not decisive and brave enough to confront them directly with his good intention. His failure as a leader in such critical time characterizes his lack of virtue of courage and audacity. His father Jacob called such behavior as turbulent as the waters 5. The second and third sons of Jacob, Simon and Levi, in the other hand, had led a very brutal scheme against Shechem in response to their sister defilement. Both of them showed traits of fierce cruelty and viciousness. Thus, the three sons of Jacob forfeit their right of leadership due to their vicious traits. However, through time Judah took a prominent place as a leader among his brothers. His father later recognized this and symbolized him as like a lion 6 which characterize the traits of courage. These sons of Jacob had demonstrated a disposition of ether vicious leadership style or at most a moral leadership stance. However, it was Joseph who later appeared to be virtuous and transformational leader. He had gone through a life of suffering- a life of slavery, imprisonment and isolation from his family for 13 plus years. Through engraving of virtuous characters in his life, Joseph was instrumental in preserving the history of his nation for another extraordinary destiny in the account of humanity. We have abundant recounts of people like Joseph in both history and contemporary world. The author of Hebrew reminded us that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses 7 so that we should persevere by considering Jesus who endures immense opposition from the amoral

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Gen. 49: 4 (NIV) Gen. 49:9 (NIV) 7 Hebrew 12 13 | P a g e

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world. He also encourage us to endure hardship as discipline since at last it produces virtuous character for those who have been trained Conclusion We need today virtuous leaders who are ready to sacrifices their self interest uncompromisingly for the greater good of society in the face of injustice, discrimination, abuse of power, etc. These are the leaders, forged under the fire of injustice but come out like gold adding value to transform their society with unbroken spirit They are endowed with virtuous characters that have rippling effect in their community as transforming agents. Their effect makes them one of instrument in the making of a virtuous society. Without genuine and authentic virtuous transformational leaders, a simple rhetoric (like that of transformation, renaissance, development,) we currently have in Ethiopia, does not go anywhere. We need virtuous leaders to reverse the status quo. Government and civil societies must have the political will to engage in open dialogue and conversation that is vital in raising public awareness using the media. Government should reconsider the application of moral education especial at the early age of children. We have already witnessed the widespread prevalence of corruption. It is high time our nation engaged in a national dialogue on the ethics of its leaders and the society at large. Otherwise, our nation is slipping away to the depth and the abysmal of corruption in which it is difficult to recover.

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Bibliography
Bass, Bernard M, and Paul Steidlmeier. Ethics, Charcter and Authentic Tranformational Leadership. Binghamton, NY: Center for Leadership, 2006. Bass, M Bernard, and E Ronald Riggio. Transformational Leadership. New Jersey, 2006. Clinton, J. Robert. The Making of a leader. Colorado Springs: NacPress, 1988. Dele. "Africa: The Challange of Ethical Leadership." World Ethics Conferance Proceedings. 97101. Hackman, Michael Z, and Craig E Johnson. Leadership: A Communication Perspective. 2003. Holmes, Arthur F. Ethics: Approching Moral Decisions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984. Reuschling, Wyndy Corbin. Reviving Evanglical Ethics: The Promise and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008. Rosamund, Thomas. "Power and Corruption in the Twenty-First Century: How to Remedy it?" World Ethics Forum Conference and Proceedings, 2006: 363-377. Schwenke, Stephen. "Leadership for East Africa: A Role for Transformational Virtue." World Ethics Forum. 313-331.

Submitted to Dr. Alem Bazezew alembazezew@gmail.com Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology Department of Leadership & Management 15 | P a g e